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HP revs up Integrity, Superdomes for Itanium 9500s

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Scaling the Superdome 2

Higher up the HP-UX food chain is the Superdome 2 – and, yes, HP resisted the temptation to call it the Superdome 2.5.

The machine has reworked system boards to take advantage of the new memory subsystems enabled by Poulson, just like the Integrity blades. However, the sx3000 chipset and Superdome 2 crossbar fabric that lashes up to 32 sockets together was designed to have enough bandwidth and low enough latency to handle the Poulson from the get-go. (Poulson has QPI links that run at 6.4GT/sec, up 33 per cent over the QPI links in the Tukwila chips.)

The Superdome 2 servers come with 8, 16, or 32 sockets, and it looks like the sx3000 chipset has 64MB of L4 cache per socket, just like it did originally. This was something that HP did not make clear two and a half years ago, and it is interesting that the Superdome 2s have L4 cache memory. IBM used to have L4 cache on its high-end Xeon servers but doesn't build big SMPs anymore, and the System z mainframes have had L4 caches for the past several years, too.

The Superdome 2 with Itanium 9500s, all racked up

Superdome 2 with Itanium 9500s, all racked up

HP is supporting the four-core Itanium 9340 and 9350 processors in the modified machines, which are from the Tukwila generation, as well as the two eight-core variants from the Poulson generation, the Itanium 9540 and 9560. Considering that those two top-bin Tukwila parts have a thermal design point of 185 watts, higher than the Poulsons' 170 watts – as well as higher prices – it seems truly odd that HP didn't offer the four-core Itanium 9550 and 9520 parts as options instead. Go figure.

The important thing for Superdome customers is that HP now has a machine that can span 32 sockets and 256 cores in a single system image and up to 4TB of memory. At the moment, HP appears to be only supporting 4GB and 8GB DDR3 memory sticks on the Superdome 2s, as it did when they were launched.

The 16-socket Superdome 2-16s machine is created by modifying a 10U c7000 chassis, adding 8U of space, and forging an 18U-high blade called the CB9000 i4 that has room at the top for the sx3000 chipset and interconnect fabric.

The Superdome 2-32s is two of these chassis linked together through the crossbar. Across the eight blades that make up the Superdome 2-32s there are 512 memory slots for a maximum of 4TB using 8GB memory sticks. It is perfectly conceivable that HP will soon double up the memory. The Superdome2-8s is a sixteen-socket machine that has half its processors and half of its external I/O slots removed.

The Superdome 2 has 96 external PCI-Express 2.0 x8 slots in an outboard, 4U enclosure, and up to 64 10GbE networking ports coming off the blades. The machine supports nPar electronically isolated partitions, vPar virtual machine partitions, IntegrityVM virtual machines, and HP-UX containers.

HP says in its spec sheet that a Poulson-based Superdome 2 will deliver 2.7 times the performance than a Tukwila machine (presumably at a socket-to-socket level), and do so in half the space. The exact feeds and speeds of this claim were not divulged, but that would be a neat trick considering that the processors themselves are only delivering 3X the performance running HP-UX, according to the new GM in charge. HP can cut the space a Superdome 2 setup needs to deliver the same performance by more than half, it can triple the performance, or it can do something in between, but it cannot deliver "[u]p to 2.7x improvement in performance, in half the size" as the spec sheet says.

On the other end of the Integrity server spectrum is the rx2800 i4 rack server, kept around so that small OpenVMS shops and NonStop clusters have a machine.

The rx2800 Itanium 9500 rack server

The rx2800 Itanium 9500 rack server

The rx2800 i4 is a 2U rack-mounted server that has two sockets, and supports all four SKUs in the Itanium 9500 series. It has 24 memory slots, supporting a maximum of 384GB with 16GB DDR3 memory sticks running at 1.33GHz.

The machine has two PCI-Express 2.0 x8 slots, and if you need more you can add three-slot riser cards to these two slots to get six x8 slots. The machine has eight 2.5-inch SAS disk drives that support the same options as the Integrity i4 blades, an HP Smart Array P410i disk controller, and four Gigabit Ethernet ports standard. HP says that a loaded-up rx2800 i4 has been tested to deliver 3.5X the performance of the rx2800 i2 machine it replaces.

All of the new Poulson machines run the September 2012 release of HP-UX 11i v3, which the company did not even reach out to tell the press about – presumably because it would have made people wonder where the Poulson chips were.

That update is what enables support for Poulson. The update also includes two-factor authentication for the operating system and a new intrusion detection system, called the AAA Server, that runs ten times faster than its predecessor.

The base Integrity i4 blade configuration will cost $6,490 and will be available in December. The new Superdome 2 machines will be available in January; pricing is not available. At press time, it wasn't clear when the rx2800 i4 will be available or what it will cost. ®

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